"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Video du Jour

A Tribute to Leo

Leo, rescued from the Michael Vick case, touched many lives as a therapy dog

By Marthina McClay of Our Pack (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

It is with great sadness that I must announce the loss of a wonderful soul. This week, Leo passed away from a severe seizure disorder. Leo was my working partner, friend and family loved one, and I will never forget how wonderful he was. He was so many things to many people and to many dogs.
Leo came to Our Pack from the Michael Vick case, and I was lucky enough to later adopt him. Even though he didn’t have a good start in life, he made life for others around him better. Just after arriving to us, Leo quickly turned inhumanity into humanity. He gave love that wasn’t even given to him.

Leo working as a therapy dog was amazing to watch, surprising to some, and yet to those who know the pit bull breed, not a surprise at all. Leo was the consummate example of true pit bull spirit – despite the life he led before with his former owner, he made a quick ascension to stardom: ace-ing his obedience classes, playing and socializing with other dogs, and revealing himself to be a true ambassador for all.

Leo worked with cancer patients as a therapy dog. He showed kids that no matter what, you can still show love and compassion toward others regardless of how life has treated you. He showed the world that one should not be judged based on what property he lives on but on who you are and what you do as an individual. Many dogs are alive today and many people have smiled because of Leo and his work. He gave a second chance to other dogs that may never have gotten one because of who he was and what he did.

Please join me in remembering the good that Leo has done and pass it on. We’ve suffered a great loss, but we’ve also received a wonderful gift in the time we were lucky enough to share with him. Leo accomplished so much in so little time. Thank you Leo, I love you so much and you will never be forgotten … ever.

For Leo, 2005 – 2011

See Leo in action as a therapy dog at the Our Pack website.

*Read a former post about Leo here.*

Monday, December 26, 2011

Visit From Santa

Layla waiting patiently to open her presents.

Opening her first present.

Her toys!

She preferred the gifts that she could eat.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Pit Bull Saves Christmas

A new movie stars "Pit Boss" pit bull, Hercules, as the hero

By Ingrid Fromm (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

Hercules Saves Christmas” is a two-hour movie featuring what Animal Planet calls “Hercules, America’s favorite pit bull and star of Animal Planet’s hit series ‘Pit Boss.’ ” The movie was produced by “Pit Boss” star Shorty Rossi, who also lends his voice to Hercules, and many of his costars also appear in the movie.

In the movie, Hercules is Santa’s pit bull, who is in charge of Santa’s naughty and nice list. The dog promises to help a lovable but mischievous 12-year-old orphan, Max, get on the “nice list” if Max helps a bitter man who has lost his Christmas spirit. Funny antics ensue, as only Max can see the magical pit bull.

All seems to be going well for Max and Hercules on their journey to help the man until an evil elf summons a devious woman to get the magical collar from Hercules and destroy Christmas. Through this journey of saving Hercules and saving Christmas, Max also finds his own missing Christmas spirit.

One interesting tidbit is that in write ups about the movie, some mention he is a pit bull, others do not. Perhaps by not mentioning it, it is a way of just showing pit bulls as dogs, not singling them out in any way. Others mention Hercules as being the “most famous pit bull” or “America’s favorite pit bull.” Either way, it’s showing pit bulls in a positive light, and that’s always a good thing!

The movie is a story of good triumphing over evil and about keeping the spirit of Christmas alive all year long. It has all the elements of becoming a Christmas classic. A Christmas classic starring Santa’s pit bull? Who doesn’t want that?

You can order your own copy of the feature here. Proceeds will go to Shorty’s Charities, Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation, Karma Rescue, Fur Baby and Doors of Faith Orphange.

Photos courtesy of Animal Planet

Night Before Christmas

By Kerry and Hope (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
A creature was stirring … but it wasn’t a mouse.
A sweet little pit bull, all shiny and black,
Was anxiously waiting for the man with the sack.

Santa, she’d heard, delivered treats from his bag.
To dogs who were good, with their tails all a wag.
So Hope settled down on the couch, by the tree.
Excited and eager… How fun this would be!
While visions of liver snaps danced in her head,
Hope was happy, this night, to stay out of her bed.
She promised herself she would not sleep a wink,
But the cushions so soft…. her head started to sink.
That warm sleepy feeling spread down to her toes,
And before she could stop it, Hope started to doze.
Then suddenly something created a clatter.
Hope snapped up her head to see what was the matter.
She wriggled with joy to see who had appeared.
It was Santa himself, with a white fluffy beard.
He busied himself with his bag full of booty,
Laying out gifts and completing his duty.

Hope tried to be still as she watched him at work,
But he heard a small thump, and he turned with a jerk.
“What was that noise?” Santa thought, and looked down.
Before him, he noticed the dog…. then he frowned.
His frown was just slight, and it didn’t last long.
But the feelings that struck him were surprisingly strong.
The sight of this dog made him stop and take pause,
For compassion came quickly to good Santa Claus.
This little black pit bull was ragged and tattered.
Scarred with old wounds from the years she’d been battered.
She was missing a leg, in the front, on the left.
So sad was the sight, St. Nick almost wept.
But despite all her scars and the story they told.
The little dog sat with a smile, pure as gold.
And the thump Santa heard, he guessed without fail,
Was the sound from the little dog wagging her tail.
His frown was soon melted by a big jolly grin.
Santa reached down and scratched the dog’s chin.
He lowered himself on his knees with a plop,
While Hope got excited and started to hop.
“What a sweet little creature,” he said with great care.
As Hope gave him kisses, while snuffly his hair.
Where her leg had once been, there was now just a stump.
Though it didn’t impede any leap, nor a jump.

Still Santa felt bad and said, “Poor little thing.”
But Hope didn’t mind her small chicken wing.
She seemed very happy and loaded with cheer.
St. Nick was amazed by this sweet little dear.
For all she’d been through, that took such a toll.
Hope had no malice, nor hate in her soul.
Santa got up off the floor from his knees.
And asked the small dog what present would please.
“Dear Santa,” said Hope, “I hear you’re a saint.”
“I’m always so hungry. It’s my only complaint.”
“So if you have treats in your sack, dear St. Nick.”
“I would love something yummy and scrumptious to lick.”
“You look quite well fed,” laughed the jolly old elf.
“You just can’t get fat and look like myself!”
But Santa reached down in his sack with a groan,
And pulled out a luscious, and beefy good bone.
He then asked the pit bull what else she might need.
But Hope was content. She did not know greed.
Hope was ecstatic… what glorious fare!
But she paused and looked up, “One more gift, if I dare.”
Santa was happy to give all that she wanted.
Her eyes were beseeching, and a tiny bit haunted.
“Think of the pit bulls ’round the world as you roam.”
“Please pray for justice, and find them good homes.”
With a tear in his eye, Santa patted her head.
Hope picked up her bone, and ran off to bed.
He thought it amazing, as his sleigh flew above,
What a small tattered dog could teach about love.
Hope was all settled in bed with great joy.
A big yummy bone she was set to destroy.
And she heard Santa call as she started to nibble.
“Merry Christmas to all, especially the pibbles!”

Friday, December 16, 2011

What A Beautiful Pit Bull

Once shocked to find they had a pit bull, now they can’t imagine life without her.

By Amanda Mueller (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

Photos courtesy of Alexsandra Gajdeczka

How do I fit 13 years of love and life into a few paragraphs? I suppose I should start with the words that opened my mind and changed my life for the better: “This is a beautiful pit bull.”

This is what the vet said on our fifth visit with our new rescued puppy, Sierra. When we first brought Sierra to the vet, she was malnourished and covered in open sores from the mange, so it wasn’t until she started to heal and fill out that the vet commented on our beautiful pit bull.

“Oh my God,” I thought. “A pit bull? We can’t have a pit bull! We have baby nephews and nieces who we need to protect.”

But then I looked down and saw Sierra. I couldn’t wrap my head around the clash between what I had heard about pit bulls and this little dog that stole our hearts the first moment we met her. It only took minutes of research to learn that pit bulls are individuals like any other dogs. And with Sierra, we fell in love with the breed, and so did countless friends and family members upon meeting our affectionate goofball. Even my 80-year-old grandmother, who dog-sits Sierra often, is not shy about telling strangers about the wonder of pit bulls.

Fast forward to when Sierra was 6-years-old, and we found out she had a cancerous tumor in her hind-left paw. In order to save her, we had to amputate the entire leg. She still had such energy and life. How could we not save her? The vet projected it would take her at least two weeks to learn to walk again. Little did they know the heart of this dog. A few hours after the surgery, the vet technician called to ask if she could take Sierra around the block for a walk because Sierra was awake, happy and ready to go. When we came to pick her up, she had no left leg and staples showing, but she was wagging her tail and giving kisses to everyone at the vet office. Sierra, being the model patient, is now the vet’s “spokes dog” for other owners considering amputation.

The first few years after her surgery, Sierra remained my loyal running partner. Eventually arthritis set in and she retired from running, but she is still happy taking leisure strolls through the neighborhood with all the kids that come over to play with her.

I have to admit, when we had her home the first week with her stitches exposed and our toddler accidentally bumped into it, I am ashamed to admit I had a moment of weakness when the thought flashed in my mind: “She could turn at any moment.”


Know what Sierra did with all that pain? She kissed our toddler as if to reassure him it was OK. Because that’s what our pit bull does.

Sierra went on to be a wonderful foster sister to many other pit bulls in our home when we worked with Indy Pit Crew in Indiana. She looked after pregnant mommas, little tiny baby puppies and adult dogs that eventually found love with their forever families. We brought these abused souls into our home to foster, and in return they taught my whole family, especially our young boys, love, forgiveness, acceptance and true happiness. Through the same process, Sierra has taught us patience and tolerance.

I suppose I should mention that Sierra is also deaf. Many worry that deaf dogs are not trainable or that they will be fearful biters, so they don’t give deaf dogs a chance. But the truth looks more like this: Sierra doesn’t care when other dogs are barking, the doorbell is of no consequence, and she sleeps through even the worst thunderstorms. She smells when new people are in the house within moments (even from the second floor), and she is very visually oriented. Sierra can be fast asleep, and if she gets a whiff of nearby human or if she is startled awake, her tail starts wagging a mile a minute at the anticipation, even before she opens her eyes. She still helps out when I’m home alone and feeling scared. She senses and watches my reactions to things and will go and investigate.

As for training, Sierra, like any deaf dog, relies on eye contact and hand signals. Trainers I have worked with have occasionally been reluctant to let Sierra in their class, but Sierra has graduated at the top of her class each time. And even better, each trainer said they wished they had more deaf dogs in their classes!

Sierra is now an Elderbull at 13. She continues to show the world that pit bull type dogs have an insurmountable amount of love to share. The fact that she’s deaf, a cancer survivor, a tri-ped, a pit bull, well, none of that matters in the end because to us she’s just Ci-Ci, the best dog in the whole world.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Pit Bull's Reality

Lucky Dog Rescue is not necessarily a "Pit Bull Rescue."

I'm more of a broken heart rescue. A desperate soul rescue. A no-other-hope rescue.

It just so happens... that many of the dogs with no other hope... are "Pit Bulls." (It also turns out... that I freaking love Pit Bulls.)

But you may wonder why the "bully breeds" need so much help. Why do these particular dogs have no other hope?

Let's start at the beginning... with the "ownership" aspect. Pit Bulls are arguably the most tortured "breed" in the world. (Remember: the term "Pit Bull" actually refers to at least 3 different breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.)

These dogs have been used and abused by humans for insanely cruel purposes... resulting in their bad reputation and perceived tough-guy image. This is not their fault.

Pit Bulls are often subjected to inhumane, painful, sadistic practices, such as dogfighting. They are exploited. They are tortured. They are hated.

Other Pit Bulls are chained and used for "protection." Many are used as "breeding machines." Some are used for "bait." In most cases, these guard dogs, breeder dogs, and bait dogs are severely mistreated, starved, and neglected all their lives.

But more than that... these tortured Pit Bulls live each and every day... without love.

Let's talk dogs for a second. Not breeds. Just dogs...

A dog --any dog-- exists for one reason: companionship. That's their entire purpose on this Earth. Dogs live for us. They'd die for us. Dogs love us more than they love themselves.
So... when you deny a dog --any dog-- of that companionship, you deny them of their very purpose in life. And when you strip a dog --any dog-- of their most basic needs: food, water, shelter, and exercise... you slowly kill their spirit.

But sadly... Pit Bulls are rarely desired for companionship. Yet...it's their only wish. Pit Bulls are rarely given food, walks, or warmth. These are their only needs.

Pit Bulls need and desire these things... just as much as every other dog. But far too often, their most basic needs and desires... are denied.

Despite all of this, these dogs live each day... with the hope that maybe today will be better. "Maybe I'll please them today." "Maybe they'll feed me today." "Maybe they'll walk me today." "Maybe they'll love me today."

Because every day --no matter what you do to a Pit Bull-- a Pit Bull will still love you.

However, in the eyes of their abusers, these dogs are completely disposable. They have no value, no worth, and no feelings. The owner determines the dog's "purpose," and the dog must fulfill that purpose... just to survive another day.

When these tortured Pit Bulls have fulfilled their "purpose" --or when they fail to fulfill that purpose-- they're often dumped to die... or killed.

And when a Pit Bull is dumped, where do they go?

That's the next heartbreaking reality for these dogs. Many rescued Pit Bulls end up in animal shelters. And many of those shelters have strict policies regarding bully breeds (Often, these policies are enforced in an attempt to protect these dogs from further abuse. I DO NOT wish to bash any shelter policies here, only to explain the reality for many Pit Bulls).

Some shelters require that all Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes be euthanized. Others may deem Pit Bulls as "rescue-only," meaning that only an animal rescue group can pull the dogs from the shelter.

So... that means they have hope, right? From rescue groups?

That's the third devastating reality for Pit Bulls. Many animal rescue organizations cannot or do not take Pit Bulls.

For starters, many rescue groups are located in areas with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). So, it's actually illegal for those rescues to take any Pit Bulls.

Other rescue groups may choose not to take bully breeds for various reasons. This decision is often made because it's much more difficult to find good, quality homes for these dogs... and the process takes time.

With Pit Bulls, the pet adoption process takes much longer than with other breeds. Due to societal bias --and BSL-- the adopter pool for Pit Bulls is much smaller than for other dogs. So... when a rescue group has limited space and resources, they may not be able to accommodate a Pit Bull until adoption.

...Which ties into the next no-other-hope reality for Pit Bulls: adoption. As I said, the pool of adopters for Pit Bulls is vastly smaller than for any other breed of dog. This is true for many reasons: the misinformation, the societal misconception, the judgment without merit... these things threaten every Pit Bull's future.

Then... for some potential Pit Bull adopters, BSL prevents any chance of adoption. For others, their landlords, their insurance companies, and the opinions of family and friends deter desires to adopt a Pit Bull.

And so... after a lifetime of abuse, many Pit Bulls are simply waiting... with shattered hopes, dreams, and love... to die.

Today... right now, at this very second... thousands upon thousands of Pit Bulls are suffering. Thousands and thousands more are waiting in shelters... for their chance at forever. For their first shot at love.

For many, the suffering will never end. For most, love will never arrive. For the majority, death will get here first.

Except... for a lucky few. The Lucky Dogs.

And that's why I save them.

I don't do it because it's easy. I do it because they're worth it.

By Ashley Owen Hill

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, Pit Bulls Suddenly Snap

Five things you’ve always heard about pit bulls and why they’re all true.

By Micaela Myers (Reprinted from StubbyDog.org)

1. Pit bulls “suddenly snap.” It’s true. One minute they are lying upside down on the couch snoring, and the next minute they hear the word “walk,” or “rawhide,” or “ball,” and they suddenly snap. From 0 to Mach 90, they are doing zoomies down the hall, tongue flapping, tail tucked for turning aerodynamics. Jump in front of this joyful train, and you could indeed accidentally get knocked down! (photo by Donna J. Griffin)

2. Pit bulls’ jaws are unlike any other dog. Again, it’s true. Bullies have a singular type of jaw that enables smiling unlike any other! The lips curl up and wrinkle, and you can’t help but laugh at that happy pink tongue bobbing with each big breath, those shiny white teeth and those big twinkling eyes. (photo by Ronny Ag Roberts)

3. Pit bulls are tenacious fighters. Ever try and fight a pack of pit bulls for the couch? The bed? A soft, cozy blanket? It’s true, they love a comfortable place to sleep and would rather lie right on top of you or each other than be alone on the cold, hard floor. (photo by Janet Podczerwinski)

4. Children beware. If your child has a phobia for canine kisses, then he or she definitely better stay clear of pit bulls. Pit bulls have a special radar just for children. Smell one, and they start to lick their lips. They can’t wait to find that little kid and cover them in kisses. (photo by Colleen S Moore)

5. Pit bulls are the ultimate guard dogs. Maybe all robbers need is a little love? If this is the case, then yes, pit bulls make excellent guard dogs. Most will be happy to greet robbers with their wiggly butts. They may even show them where the couch (and TV) is, where the coziest bedroom (and jewelry) is, and invite them to stay and cuddle awhile. (photo by Cristina Falcon Seymour)
Those of us who really know pit bulls, know that they’re just dogs (OK, maybe they’re especially cuddly and goofy dogs). Now let the world know the truth about pit bulls! For a more serious look at pit bull myths and facts, click here and visit our resource page.

All photos courtesy of StubbyDog’s Facebook fans.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Video du Jour

For Pits Sake's pit bull Tahoe showing the true meaning of Christmas.


Good Citizens in the Making

From the moment Little Red the Vicktory dog showed up to Best Friends, a veritable fan club of supporters sprang up around her almost overnight. Time and again people found themselves drawn to this sweet, gentle dog almost at first sight. Best Friends Dogtown caregiver Betsy Kidder was no exception. “There was something about her,” Betsy says. “As soon as I met her, I fell in love with her.”
Little Red
Little Red
That didn’t mean, however, that Little Red was ready to be loved back in the beginning. At least not up close. She still felt too nervous about the world around her. “She was very afraid of people,” points out Betsy, who worked with Little Red from the beginning as one of the caregivers who slept with the Vicktory dogs at nights in their play area.

Little Red exceeds expectations!

Over the years, Little Red has made slow but steady progress in trusting people. As one small example, she went from going into “pancake” mode when being connected to a leash (i.e., lying flat to the ground and refusing to budge), to enjoying her walks so much that she’d lunge in excitement at every turn, to finally learning how to walk with a nice loose leash right next to her caregiver. That alone is a huge accomplishment.

Over the years, Little Red has had a huge support system of friends and caregivers in her corner every step of the way. She’s been an office dog, for one thing, and has also attended several training classes with various caregivers, including wallflower classes for shy dogs. Little Red really enjoyed one particular staff-only training class that combined the classic shy dog curriculum with basic behavior training. “It was really laid back,” explains Betsy about that class. The low-stress environment worked wonders for Little Red. She kept on learning, kept on improving.

Recently, Best Friends dog trainer Pat Whitacre began a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) class for the Vicktory dogs. No other dogs besides the Vicktory dogs must be held at Best Friends until they pass the CGC test. This condition was part of the original court mandates for the Vicktory dogs who came to live at the Sanctuary.

Little Red
Little Red passes the Canine Good Citizen test.
By way of clarification, the Vicktory dogs have been working toward CGC certification ever since arriving. Little Red’s loose leash walking, for example, was a skill she had to learn for her CGC. It might’ve taken a plethora of treats along the way, yet she got there! One detail on that point, however. The CGC test has to be done without treats, but sometimes taking away treats creates a whole different ballgame.

So, while the dogs have been working steadily toward CGC all along, this was more of a formal class with additional structure and focus. At the beginning of class, each of the dogs had his or her own hurdles to clear. In Little Red’s case, Pat suspected there was one area in particular where she might need extra practice.

“Little Red’s biggest challenge is that she’s super sweet, but shy,” Pat explains. Her default greeting to meet somebody new used to be hiding behind Betsy’s legs. Little Red needed to learn to meet strangers with calm confidence as part of the CGC training, not to hide behind anybody.

Thus the classes began. Vicktory dogs Squeaker, Oscar, Little Red, Georgia, Curly and Ray all attended. After the first class, it seemed like Little Red was actually holding her own quite well. They decided to give her the CGC test the following Sunday just to see where she was at, and to find out what she’d need to focus on in the classes. Bear in mind that as of this point they hadn’t even started taking away treats.

Well, guess what? She passed her test with a perfect 10 out of 10! “I was shocked,” says Betsy. Again, this exercise was supposed to be, more than anything, a way to find out what Little Red would need to focus on in class. Yet she aced the whole test right out the gate, no treats or anything! All those years of hard work paid off. “She really is a sweet dog,” says Pat. Adds Betsy, “There’s not a thing wrong with her.”

Little Red’s timing couldn’t have been better, either. As it turns out, there’s already a potential home lined up. She must’ve known it was game time! Huge congrats to Little Red and the many people who have loved and helped her along the way. Little Red has now found her forever home. Follow her on Facebook!

As it turns out, Little Red’s success might have been contagious ...

Georgia is the teacher's peach!

Georgia is another dog who put in a lot of time and effort, along with the people who loved her, before the formal classes. In her case, one of the big factors in her readiness was a caregiver who made it her personal goal to see that Georgia passed CGC certification.

Best Friends dog caregiver Kathy Moore has been working every day with Georgia for a full year. “Helping Georgia pass her CGC was one of my main goals when I moved to [her play area],” says Kathy. One of Georgia’s biggest obstacles, at first glance, might not sound like a big deal, but Georgia is really independent. “She can make herself happy with a water bucket or a toy,” explains Kathy.

The difficulty, Kathy found, was that Georgia didn’t seem all that interested in forming a relationship with her. Georgia would just as soon go sniff the bushes as interact extensively with a person. Not to be discouraged, Kathy made it a point to spend time with Georgia three times a day, no matter what. Consistency was important. Then Kathy added two outings a day. In time, Georgia began to rely on the routine. Eventually they shared lunches together. Kathy and Georgia grew closer and closer, which is the backbone to all the relationship-based training at Best Friends.

Even so, Georgia had a couple of big challenges right out the gate. For one, she was reactive to other dogs. And two, she had a super hard time walking on a loose leash because of her constant desire to sniff and explore every square inch around her!

Loose leash walking can be a tough one to fix, even if the training method is rather straightforward. At Best Friends, the basic approach to teaching a dog how to walk alongside the caregiver is as follows: If the dog lunges ahead, the caregiver will stop walking entirely until the dog calms down and returns. Then, they can move forward again, at least a couple more steps. “Sometimes we’d only go down two lodges,” says Kathy.
Georgia with caregiver Kathy

In the end, it took six months of consistent work before Georgia truly mastered the concept of loose leash walking. Once she figured out that by following the rules and paying attention she would get longer walks (not to mention treats along the way), a light clicked on in her mind. “She realized what the expectations were and started doing really well,” points out Kathy.

After those basic skills were in place, including sit and stay, Georgia was primed and ready to learn more. As for being reactive around other dogs, Kathy would meet up with other caregivers or trainers in neutral spaces. The other dog would be 15 feet away, at least in the beginning. During these sessions, treats and other rewards were such a big part of the equation that Georgia began associating positive things with other dogs.

One dog she ended up spending a lot of time around was Goober, another Sanctuary dog who needed to work on his leash skills. Best Friends dog trainer Jen Gfeller worked with Goober while Kathy worked with Georgia. They’d practice training sessions in the parking lot, at the Welcome Center, really anywhere and everywhere they could so that the dogs could also get used to new locations. Eventually, they were able to work the dogs close to one another.

In time, Georgia’s manners got better and better. In fact, all her skills improved. During the CGC classes, Georgia showed signs that she, too, was ready to take the test. As such, Best Friends dog trainer Jen Severud tested Georgia. As part of the certification, it’s necessary that the one doing the test hasn’t been working with the dog, and Jen hadn’t been.

Georgia passes!
Before the test, Kathy spent time helping Georgia get all the zooms out of her system, and let her sniff up a storm (one of Georgia’s biggest weaknesses!). Kathy knew what Georgia needed in order to be at her best. All the work paid off. Georgia passed with flying colors, and may now be considered for a home!

Jen says it was an absolute blast to see the obvious bond between Kathy and Georgia. “The CGC is all about testing the dog and the handler. It’s a partnership thing,” Jen explains. “They were really a team. They passed together.”

It's because of people like you that we are able to help dogs in need like Georgia and Little Red get the second chance at the good life they deserve! Give to Best Friends and help us help even more animals in need.

All our dogs are winners! Click here to see our available pooches that are ready to join your family.

By David Dickson

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tripp's Trip

Tripp goes from being a cruelty victim in a Chicago gang house
 to the cherished pet in a Long Island home.

James Dunleavy recently lost his 14-year-old dog Toby. A retired banker, James lives alone in the house he shared with his late wife in New Hyde Park, New York. Toby kept James in good company, and so it was hard to say goodbye to the dog.

After Toby was gone, James decided he wanted another dog to help fill the void in the house.

“I wasn’t looking for any particular breed or size or anything,” he says.

So when John Cocchiola, owner of the venerable Long Island restaurant Stango’s and a friend of James, suggested he check out the dogs available for adoption at Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) in Bangall, New York, James thought, “Why not?” John is, after all, a volunteer there. And as a member of the Northeast Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, he knows his dogs.

So James and his son, Jim, drove up to AFF and met some of the dogs. It didn’t take long for James to decide on a pit-bull terrier mix named Tripp. After a home inspection, the adoption was finalized, thereby completing Tripp’s long journey from being a victim of cruelty in a gang house in Chicago to a cherished companion in his new home on Long Island, where he is now lavished with affection.

Tripp came to Animal Farm Foundation from Chicago Animal Care Control (ACC). There, he was in the Court Case Dog program. Spearheaded by Best Friends and Safe Humane Chicago in conjunction with D.A.W.G. and ACC, the Court Case Dog program involves assessing, training and enriching the lives of dogs who have wound up in ACC as evidence in their abusers’ court cases. The program eventually adopts the dogs or places them with local foster-based rescues.

Tripp was one of two Chicago dogs who came to AFF after AFF staffers Bernice Clifford and Kim Wolf-Stringer paid a visit to ACC to learn about the Court Case Dog program. AFF training coordinator Bernice and community engagement specialist Kim both thought Tripp had the potential to become a participant in AFF’s service dog program. Tripp, however, lacked the confidence he needed to become a service dog. AFF, therefore, made him available for adoption. Bernice and Kim didn’t think it would take long for Tripp to get adopted. They were right.

“They showed me two or three dogs, and I told them it was my choice to take Tripp,” James says. Tripp’s calm demeanor was one of the reasons he decided to adopt the dog. “He’s a very mellow, very friendly dog.”

After adopting Tripp, James and Jim decided that it was only right that they take Tripp by Spango’s for a visit so John could meet the dog. James, Jim and Tripp ended up staying for dinner.

“Tripp just lied down under the table and snoozed,” James says.

James hasn’t seen Tripp get overly excited about anything since Tripp came to live with him, not even the wheelchair Jim uses. He treated the chair as if it were as commonplace as a piece of grass. There is, however, the lawnmower. For some reason, Tripp has decided the lawnmower is his mortal enemy, as James and Jim found out one day when James brought the machine out of the garage.

For however laid-back Tripp usually is, James says he’s constantly attentive to what’s happening around the house. “He is very sharp,” James says. “Nothing passes by him that he doesn’t pick up on.” And that provides James with comfort.

Considering where Tripp has been, that feeling of comfort would certainly have to be a mutual one for Tripp.

Learn more about Animal Farm Foundation and the Court Case Dog program.

By Ted Brewer, Best Friends staff writer
Photos courtesy of James Dunleavy

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Video du Jour

Nala has since been adopted by her foster dad, Mark. He's the one at the end, smooching Nala.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Award Leaves Pit Bull Owner in Happy Tears

Happy tears, astonished tears, proud tears...please read on...

This year, for the first time ever, The Positive Pit Bull participated in the Raleigh Christmas Parade.

Dozens of Pit bulls wooed the crowd with their festive holiday wear.

The dogs, all ambassadors of their breed, captivated the crowd with their adorable costumes and charmed them with their endearing personalities.

Much to the surprise and delight of The Positive Pit Bull founder, Paige Burris, the participating Pit bulls won perhaps the most coveted award of the parade - The People's Choice Award.

Yes, the throngs of people voted and their number one pick was The Positive Pit Bull group.

Their choice left Burris in tears. Happy tears, of course.

Winning the award is much more than just an honorable prize - the dancing, prancing, charming dogs showed everyone at the parade that they were not to be feared - not to be misunderstood.

What did The Positive Pit Bull really win with this award?

According to Burris,

"Awareness for Pit bulls. A chance to educate! Attention for the breed who deserves it most."

She has high hopes for the award - she hopes that it will help to change their negative perception of this highly misunderstood breed.

Burris hopes that people will take the time to question their current way of thinking - to open their mind to the possibility that Pit bulls are just dogs - with the same needs as any other breed.

She also hopes that people will come to understand this special breed's capacity to love, and to realize what an incredibly big heart they have.

Burris knows that Pit bulls aren't the right breed for everyone, but for those owners who take the time to own responsibly - providing socialization, training and loving care - Pit bulls can rank among the most perfect breeds available.

Congratulations to The Positive Pit Bull participants - may you continue to spread your special joy to the world!

Please take a moment to share this positive story - perceptions will begin to change when people open their mind - when they allow themselves to see the good.

Article by Penny Eims, Dog News Examiner
Photo credit, The Positive Pit Bull

Love at First Sight

On her one-year anniversary of adopting a shelter dog, an adopter reflects on her pit-bull terrier’s positive effect on her family and community.

Last year, July 5 to be exact, my boyfriend and I went to the Washington Humane Society on New York Ave. in Washington, D.C. to meet a sweet-looking dog we saw on Adopt-A-Pet.com. We were about to buy our first home and move several counties away, but I had spent months aching for a dog. He wasn't exactly sold on the idea, having, I believe, only had boring dogs in the past.

I started my search with Boston terriers, but soon turned my efforts to finding a pit-bull terrier. I always loved how happy-go-lucky they are, and I knew they needed all the help they can get, as I was learning more and more about their plight every day. I had been convincing him how wonderful it would be to have a dog around, how rewarding it is, and how glorious waking up to doggy kisses can be. I had apparently convinced him enough to "just go see her."

Nina was described in her profile as "a cuddle bug" and "a perfect couch companion." We walked through the kennel trying to find the face with that perfect pit-bull terrier smile we saw online. We found her and her telltale grin, and asked to meet Nina along with two other dogs. A volunteer led us into a small room with a couch, some treats, a window, and a few toys. They told us they would bring in the dogs one at a time, and left us there to go bring out the first dog. I kept telling myself that we don’t have to adopt a dog today — if these dogs aren’t exactly right for us, we shouldn’t take one home. There was no use getting into this if our hearts aren’t all there, I repeated.

The first dog we met was a little to "hot" for us — bouncing off the walls and understandably excited to get out of her run. The second dog was aloof and probably a little scared, a bit too "cold" for our home. Nina was last.

The door opened just enough for her to see us on the couch, and the moment she did her face exploded with that wonderful smile.

Within a split second, Nina had pushed open the door, jumped into the air, rotated 180 degrees and landed belly up across both of our laps. She immediately began licking us. We spent the next five minutes together being thoroughly cleaned all over our faces and ears, doling out treats, and giving each other knowing glances, whispering, “We have to get this dog.” Nina was just right.

We put in an application. The woman interviewing us mentioned that Nina had been there for several months, and that she had almost been adopted. A man, she said, had come in and fell in love her (how could you not?), but didn’t realize that the county he had just moved to- Prince George’s- had in effect breed discriminatory legislation (BDL). Discriminatory, expensive, ineffective, dangerous, unfair, and baseless laws prohibiting its citizens from having dogs who look like Nina.

Dogs with big heads, short fur, and wide chests are automatically deemed “vicious” and “dangerous,” and are euthanized and outlawed for nothing more than their appearance and peoples’ willingness to ignorantly and blindly follow urban myth rather than common sense and scientific fact (but I'm sure you know all this, I just get riled up ha ha).

She told us that he started crying right there in his interview, saying he never would have moved there if he had known, and he left the shelter in tears that day. I can’t imagine how awful he must have felt leaving her there — a needy pit-bull terrier in an inner-city shelter. Her chances were so slim, much like every other dog that shares her physical characteristics and their attached social burdens. He must have gone home, hating his pathetic county government and hating the ignorant people who condemn innocent dogs based on fear-mongering sensationalism and moronic legend. I imagine he wept because he thought for sure she wouldn’t make it out of there.

But she did. We adopted her, and everyday I think there isn’t any way we could ever possibly love her more than we already do, and every day she proves us wrong.

She’s completed several advanced training courses at Pat Miller's training school, which we are lucky enough to live very close to, and she’ll be taking her test for Canine Good Citizen certification this year. From there, we hope to get her certified as a therapy dog so she can use her natural love for people to administer love and Nina —kisses to people in hospitals and nursing homes.

She has a veritable fan-club in our town — people I don’t even recognize hang out of their cars and yell “Hi Nina! How’s it going! I missed you!” Strangers sang “happy birthday” to her on May 7 (the date the shelter gave us), one man who doesn't even have a dog bought her Milkbones to keep on hand when we see him, and a few ask for some special Nina-luvin’ if they’ve had a hard day. These are people who don’t even know my name.

She loves visiting the bookstore, cafes, stores, high school, and firehouse downtown where she's guaranteed to get some pets. I make it a point to never say no to someone who might want to pet her — the more wonderful pit-bull terriers people meet, the better— and Nina has absolutely no concept of a stranger, only new friends.

There is a group home nearby where she is particularly popular, often walking off from an extended petting session to a chorus of "We love you Nina!" It's a little embarrassing for me, but I can tell she loves it. Bands of neighborhood kids will swamp her on our walks several times a week, having her do tricks, and giving her all the attention she can handle. She's especially popular in the winter when we bundle her up in children's hoodies from Goodwill.

What makes me the happiest is the people who come up and say they've seen us around town so often, that they've noticed how well-behaved she is, and ask about clicker training or pit-bull terrier stereotypes. She isn’t spoiled, she just has a natural ability (as many pitties do) to radiate love and happiness, and they say you get what you give. Nina has no idea that every day, she is smashing the stereotypes and ignorance that kept that person from adopting her while teaching people about positive training and pit-bull terrier advocacy — she just loves everyone she sees.

There are pets like Nina available for adoption from the Washington Humane Society. Check them out.

Read about the Shelter Partners for Pit Bulls Washington, D.C. Pit Crew.

By Laura Cooke
Photos courtesy of Laura Cooke

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter 2011 Issue of The American Dog Magazine

The winter 2011 issue features eleven incredible Pit Bull role models and breed ambassadors! Check it out!

The American Dog Magazine website.
The American Dog Magazine Facebook Page.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Licked to Death by a Pit Bull

And other tales of a faithful family dog.

In the beginning, there was Angel.

I met her in the mountains of upstate South Carolina back in the winter of 2008—she belonged to some friends of mine—and the minute she trotted out to greet me, I felt certain that things would not go well. Her head looked like an anvil, for starters; it was framed by a wide jaw and lupine, almond-shaped eyes. Her silky black fur stretched over at least fifty pounds of muscle—she had the kind of physique you’d expect to see on a panther, not a pet. All the better to chase me down and devour me with, of course, because Angel was some kind of demon dog. You could tell just by looking at her. Angel was pure pit bull.

As it turned out, Angel wasn’t much of a fighter; she was more of a leaner. Astonishingly obedient. A bit on the needy side, if you want to know the truth. When the time came for her to chase the horses back into their corral, she did her job like an old pro, with precision and care, but most of the time she seemed more interested in soaking up human affection, however she could get it.

So when the time came last year for my husband, Sean, and me to give our imperious, grumpy little pug some company, I started doing research on pit bulls, a breed I had always been taught to fear and revile. (Was I insane? Aren’t they bred for blood? Don’t they turn on their owners, and maul children without the slightest provocation? Don’t they have locking jaws?!)

Well, no. And no, and no, and no, and no (no dog has locking jaws, by the way, and a pit bull’s bite is weaker than, say, a German shepherd’s). There is no real DNA profile for the “pit-bull-type dog”; it’s at best a catchall term for what is pretty much a mutt all around, but I was shocked to learn that the American bulldog–
terrier mix was actually once cherished as a national icon, the canine embodiment of loyalty and courage and rock-solid temperament. The kind of dog you could always count on, and the kind you could trust with any job, from cutting cattle to search and rescue to, yes, babysitting. Petey, the Little Rascals’ sidekick from Our Gang? He was a pit bull. The RCA Victrola dog? A pit bull. The Buster Brown mascot? Pit bull. Sergeant Stubby, the most highly decorated dog in World War I? Pit bull. Portraits of pits draped in the American flag graced some of the most famous wartime recruitment posters. Even Theodore Roosevelt and Helen Keller adored the breed.

When I told friends what I learned, they hemmed and hawed as though I were considering the acquisition of a Bengal tiger. One politely told me that she “assumed certain things about people who owned pit bulls.” My mother, well versed in the child-mauling-
locking-jaw spiel, claimed I had a death wish. But the scales had fallen from my eyes. If a pit bull had been good enough for Helen Keller, then—what the hell?—I figured one was damn well good enough for us. So we decided to take our chances with the most notorious dog breed in America. And we had no trouble at all finding one, because all our shelters in North Carolina seemed to be overflowing with them.

“Pits have a hard time here,” one of the shelter volunteers told us, “because people are so scared of them. They’re surrendered all the time in the worst possible shape—sick, starved, beaten, tortured, you name it. And we have to put a lot of them down, which is such a shame, because they make excellent family dogs.”

We selected a young tan-and-white female with a red nose and honey-colored eyes who bounded over to us like a gazelle the first time we met her. Sean and I had recently returned from New Orleans and the Saints had just won the Super Bowl; our new addition, an underdog if there ever was one, looked elegant yet tough, refined yet scrappy. What could we do but name her Nola?

In the first few months after bringing Nola home, she consistently surprised us in every way. Our “junkyard dog,” she of dubious lineage and dangerous reputation, was more elaborate with her affection than any canine either of us had ever owned—more than all those retrievers, spaniels, hounds, terriers, and shepherds put together. If we were in any danger at all, it was the danger of having our faces licked off, the danger of drowning in slobber.

Wherever one of us went, Nola trundled alongside, and wherever we reclined together, Nola wedged between us like a balloon at a seventh-grade dance, curling into a bizarre contortion that we now call the “pit ball.” She dutifully checked the perimeter of whatever room we happened to be in. She groomed us and nuzzled us and rolled onto her side to spoon when we watched movies. Since we could never seem to peel her off of us, I joked that we might as well put a bonnet on her and start pushing her around in a stroller. (When I was at home alone at night, however, I didn’t exactly mind having a pit bull at my side. Potential intruders didn’t need to know that she was a love sponge.)

Every time I looked at Nola, she dished her ears forward, cocked her head appraisingly, and furrowed her brow in a way that let me know gears were turning back there, trying desperately to figure out what I wanted her to do. If I took her out for a hilly three-mile trail run, she pushed herself to the limit, racing ahead like some kind of spotted bullet. If I felt under the weather, she was content resting her head in the crook of my arm while I read a book. She picked up new commands and solved puzzle toys in minutes (thanks for nothing, Kong!), so our main challenge, if you can call it that, was keeping her from being bored. To paraphrase the late animal behaviorist and pit bull advocate Vicki Hearne, it was as though we weren’t so much training Nola as we were reminding her of something.

But when it came time to take her out in public, people reliably cringed and scooted away from Nola. I tried to offer up to wary strangers all the counterintuitive factoids I had come across from veterinarians and behaviorists—like the fact that pits are some of the most social dogs around, that they rank right up there with Labs and golden retrievers in terms of how much they seek out human attention. Or that the American Temperament Test Society, which has tested nearly a thousand pit bulls, gives them a passing score of 86 percent, higher than that of beagles and border collies.

Even armed with the data, we quickly realized that Nola’s affectionate nature was no match for decades of media hype. That didn’t make me sad for her (she didn’t know the difference) as much as it saddened me for the thousands of stable, adoptable pit-bull-type dogs in shelters across America that are euthanized every year because of this hysteria (in 2009, 58 percent of all euthanized dogs were pits), and for the folks I met who were missing out on the companionship of such a capable, versatile breed.

We have all read those headlines, hundreds of them, about horrifying, often fatal, pit bull attacks, and after Michael Vick’s famous arrest, we are all more familiar than we probably want to be with the evils of the dogfighting industry. Fear sells much better than reason, but fear also can’t bloom without ignorance.

Chain up any kind of dog, subject it to the jeers and taunts of passing strangers, and deny it food, shelter, and meaningful human company, and you may very well end up with a dangerous, unstable animal. With pit bulls, the media-stoked firestorm about their “viciousness” has created a tragic feedback loop: They have a terrible reputation, so the animal abusers are even more drawn to them; these dogs are then treated miserably and sometimes end up reinforcing the stereotype. Behind every broken dog is a severely broken person. You can’t have one without the other.

Here’s another way of thinking about it, though: What does it tell you about the pit bull that, in the brutal world of dogfights, the animal is so focused on pleasing its owner that it will readily accept injury, or even death? And what does it tell you about the breed’s resilience that, even after being systematically trained to fight, many of these animals can be rehabilitated, and some now work as therapy dogs?

In a hundred years, the pit bull has gone from national hero to unpredictable monster, and the dogs are still the same. We’re the ones who have changed. Despite the variances in their size and shape and traditional uses, all breeds of the domesticated dog trace their genes back to one species: Canis lupus familiaris. The strongest element in their DNA is that they want to be with us, that they want to do what we ask of them. That is both the blessing and the burden of their loyalty.

As I write this, my arm is buckling under the significant weight of a big, blocky head. A pink nose is twitching near my keyboard, and every so often, a heaving sigh escapes it. I am being stared at with an intensity that tells me to please hurry up, it’s way past dinnertime, waiting has now become unacceptable.

So I will end with this:
I now make certain assumptions about people who own pit bulls, too. I assume they are independent thinkers, they have transcended a long-standing prejudice, and, more important, they know a damn good dog when they see one.

By Bronwen Dickey
Illustration by John Cuneo

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gremlin Goes to School: Pit Bull is Teacher's Aide

Eyewitness News12 visits an Ohio classroom to bring you this encouraging report of students and dogs growing together, and if you question the wisdom of bringing so-called “vicious” breeds into the classroom, this should serve as an eye-opener.
A former bait dog is acting as an ambassador for her breed while helping autistic students to learn. Gremlin got off to a very tough start in life. Owner Chris Hughes says: “Both of Gremlin’s back legs were broken. Gremlin can’t make any noise. They ruptured her vocal chords. As a bait dog, they don’t want them making much noise, so they rupture their vocal chords.”

Despite her troubled past, Gremlin is as calm and kind as any dog you’ll meet. As a certified therapy dog, she visits students to sit by their side quietly while they practice reading. The companionship (without judgment) builds confidence and improves comprehension. In other words, it’s a terrific fit.

Middlefield teacher Janet Sapp sums up her take on the results of using therapy dogs with students in one sentence: “…we wish we could have a dog in a classroom all the time.”



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Inseparable: The Story of Wally and Boo

Wally and Boo — a Chihuahua and a pit bull — were dropped off at an animal shelter in southern California (not the no-kill kind) by their owner, who was moving and could no longer care for them.

It didn’t take long for the Rancho Cucamonga shelter, in San Bernadino County, to see the strong connection between the two.

During their stay at the shelter, Boo, the 4-year-old pit bull, and Wally, the 6-year-old Chihuahua, protected and comforted each other in the same kennel.

When separated, both would become depressed.

The shelter did its best — including making the video above — to try and adopt them out as a pair, but found no takers.

At one adoption fair, the pair was spotted by members of the The Fuzzy Pet Foundation, a Los Angeles area rescue group.

“We were so touched by their bond, but we also knew it would not be easy to place into a forever home a pit bull and a Chihuahua together,” said Sheila Choi, Fuzzy Pet’s CEO and founder.

“We asked the animal shelter to give us a little time to network, and begged them not to put to sleep Boo and Wally,” Choi said.

Joe Pulcinella, Rancho Cucamonga director of animal care and services, said Wally and Boo were never scheduled to be euthanized — and that the shelter spent five months trying to adopt them out together “because they were so bonded.”

Rancho Cucamonga has increased its adoption rate to about 90 percent, but still, as Choi saw it, the pair getting put down was a possibility.

“For many days and weeks, we made more than a thousand phone calls, sent out a slew of e-mails to our network of friends, family members, donors, and general supporters, hoping to find Boo and Wally a loving, permanent home. It was not an easy feat. No one had come forward to adopt this pair of lovers,” Choi told ohmidog!

That’s when Choi remembered a conversation she had with a classmate at Harvard’s Kennedy School, where she’s enrolled in a two-year master’s program.

“This classmate, Jack Jaskaran, also a New York City police captain, and I always talked about our love for pit bulls. Jack had owned pit bulls all his life, and had talked to me about adopting another one or two dogs after he graduated from the program last year.”

Fuzzy Pet shared Boo and Wally’s story with Jaskaran’s family, as well as a video the Rancho Cucamonga shelter had made and posted on YouTube. They agreed to adopt the pair.

“We bailed out both Boo and Wally on August 3, 2011. We have sheltered them at a cage-free boarding facility ever since, and today, they will be flying in cabin (NOT cargo) via a pet aircraft for NYC,” Choi said yesterday.

The Jaskarans were eagerly awaiting their arrival. “My little girl looks at the dogs’ video clip daily … She keeps telling me about Wally’s smile. We are very excited about them,” said Jaskaran.

“The Fuzzy Pet Foundation believes in giving every pet a second chance,” said Choi. “Pit Bulls, especially, have a bad reputation and we want to share with everyone that they are a loyal and loving dog breed. Boo and Wally were considered by the animal shelter difficult to re-home as a pair, but we truly performed a miracle.”


Pit Bull Saves Owner From Fire


Friday, November 18, 2011

Video du Jour

Little Red the Vicktory dog surprised everyone recently by passing the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test on her very first try! "She's a great dog," says Dogtown caregiver Betsy Kidder, who worked closely with Red to help her get ready for the test. This is especially exciting news for Little Red, who, by court mandate, as with other Vicktory dogs, had to achieve CGC certification before being considered for adoption. And her timing couldn't have been better. As luck (or fate!) would have it, a regular volunteer from the midwest, who'd loved Little Red for years, had barely told the adoption folks at Best Friends a couple months beforehand that she'd love to adopt Little Red. Everything cleared during the adoption application process, and lucky Little Red is now living in a foster-to-adopt situation, another court mandate. Way to go, Red!

Follow Little Red on Facebook!

Pit Bulls Are Just Dogs

Enough already. Anybody reading the Argus-Courier over the last few weeks would think our town’s biggest problem is pit bulls. Forget our declining city revenues and unmaintained parks. It’s pit bulls that sell papers. That’s why we’ve been besieged with front page, above-the-fold stories week after week. It was a terrible tragedy that occurred, but you only heard about it because it involved a pit bull-type dog. It could just as easily have been a German shepherd, Labrador retriever, pointer, rottweiler or poodle — but if that had been the case, you wouldn’t know about it. When I was the Marin Humane Society’s public information director and somebody was bitten or attacked by a dog, reporters would call practically drooling, saying, “Was it a pit bull?” “No, it was a Lab.” Click. They only cared to report on incidents involving pit bulls, thereby stigmatizing these unfairly maligned dogs even further.

I’m going to let you in on a big secret. Pit bulls are just dogs. Just plain old dogs. And they make wonderful family pets. The American pit bull terrier, one of the first American dog breeds, was known as the “nanny dog” in the early 1900s because of their love of children. There are quite a few pit bull-type dogs in Petaluma and the vast majority are living with middle-class families minding their own business. People who have them cherish them because they really are special. Pit bulls are happy, loving, sweet, smart, comical, cuddly dogs who love being with people. If you don’t know that to be true, then you don’t know anything about this breed.

Like us, dogs are individuals and, yes, there are troubled dogs — of every breed. Worse, there are too many irresponsible owners — of every breed. When incidents happen, it is seldom the dog who is at fault. Dogs are dogs. They are territorial and predatory by nature. That’s why they need to be managed and people need to be held accountable. Too many dogs lose their lives because of their owners’ mistakes.

This newspaper needs to take responsibility, too. Every time the media sensationalizes pit bulls as dangerous, it makes neighbors uneasy, makes it harder for shelters to find homes for these perfectly good family dogs — and makes them more attractive to the less responsible elements of society.

Pit bulls are our victims. Because of our ignorance, our fear and our prejudice, these innocent dogs end up in the wrong hands, often neglected and mistreated. Stop this cycle of abuse and misinformation. Spend some time at www.badrap.org and go to the animal shelter and ask to meet a pit bull — the real dog, not the one of your imagination. Open your mind and stop believing everything you read in the newspaper.

Article by Sheri Cardo, Petaluma

Monday, November 14, 2011

Titans Free Safety Michael Griffin Joins Effort to Embrace Pit Bulls

Michael Griffin of the Titans says he enjoys traveling to shows with his American Bullies, spending time with people who really know the breed and want to educate those who don't.
Tennessee Titans free safety Michael Griffin is known for his drive to win in football stadiums.

But he is also competitive in the dog show arena.

Out of the four dogs Griffin owns, three happen to be pit bulls. If the image of dog fighting comes to mind, this is the farthest thing from it.

“In my offseason, I travel around to different shows with my American Bullies,” he said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing — spending time with people like myself who really know this breed and want to educate people.”

The Brentwood resident is also throwing his support behind Nashville PITTIE, which stands for Pit Bull Initiative to Transform Image and Educate. The advocacy group is sponsoring a pit bull awareness day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 107 S. 11th St. in Nashville, the lot beside Bongo Java. There will be music, a parade, contests, training tips and opportunities to adopt pit bulls. If he gets out of practice in time, Griffin plans to be there with one of his dogs.

Pit bulls have a reputation as an aggressive breed. It didn’t help matters when NFL quarterback Michael Vick served time in jail for his role in a dog fighting ring.

“I don’t really know a lot about that case, so I really can’t say anything about it, except to say that everybody makes mistakes. And people have to pay for their mistakes,” Griffin said.

Part of the problem with the public image of the pit bull is that many people focus on only what they hear about the breed. Some neighborhood homeowner associations and municipalities have banned pit bull ownership.

As a kid, Griffin always wanted a Rottweiler, but he never was able to convince his parents to take one in. When he was in college, he pulled a fast one on his folks when he returned home with a dog he said was a blue Lab. It wasn’t until after his parents fell in love with the dog that they realized their son had a pit bull. Now, his parents own two pit bulls, Shack and Honey.

“All dogs have teeth. It’s all in how you raise them,” Griffin said.

Written by Bonnie Burch

Video du Jour

Caution: Grab a box of tissues!

His name was Stallone. Rescued during a dogfighting raid, this pitbull terrier won the love of everyone around him. The heartbreaking story of this victim sheds light on the extreme cruelty he, and other dogs like him, endured - fight after fight.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pit Bull Festival Celebrates a Misunderstood Breed

His smile was gigantic as he flopped lazily upside down in his trainer’s arms, fresh off a spectacular performance of athletic prowess that both delighted and titillated his cross-species audience.

Justice had made a long and difficult journey from the pit bull fighting circuit on the East Coast to his joyous and inspiring performance at the third annual Texas-sized Pittie Bride Festival in downtown Austin on Sunday.

This fantastic creature was the answer, plain and simple, to anyone who has ever been snowed by the erroneous idea that pit bulls are, by their very nature, killing machines.

On the contrary, Justice was pure joy embodied.

His lean, red-gold body turned flips some six feet in the air as he caught Frisbee after Frisbee between those much-maligned and highly misunderstood jaws. Nearly 200 pit bulls yelped and barked and hooted their pleasure, a playful and excited audience.

“When they love you,” said their owner, LeRoy Golden, by way of explaining the ease of training pit bulls, “they’ll do anything for you. And that’s part of their problem.”

Meaning that when Justice and other pit bulls are taught by their owners to fight other dogs, or to become vicious guard dogs, they will comply out of love and loyalty.

Their very nature, as it turns out, works against them in the wrong hands and feeds into a misperception that ends every day with thousands of pit bulls being abused by ignorant owners or put to death in shelters because fear and ignorance stands between them and loving homes.

Loving and trusting humans that seek to do them harm or turn them into killers, in fact, may be the only downfall of a breed that is regularly and unfairly brutalized by society - particularly by a lazy media beast that needs a demon to sell to an ignorant and reactionary audience.

(And believe me, as a member of the media, I know of which I speak on that point.)

Sunday’s event, organized by the advocacy group Love-A-Bull, Inc., was a celebration of pit bulls in recognition of the group’s Pit Bull Awareness Day in Austin.

Starting with a parade down Congress Avenue and ending with several hundred dogs and owners at Republic Square Park downtown, the festival featured training demonstrations, live music, and a presentation by Tim Racer and Donna Reynolds, who rehabilitated the so-called “Vick dogs”—survivors of the horrendous dog-fighting ring for which football player Michael Vick spent time in prison.

(Racer and Reynolds say some of the Vick dogs will never be able to live normal lives, but that many are doing well and that they did much to advance understanding and compassion for the breed.)

The festival sought to encourage responsible pet ownership as well as set an unofficial world record for the most pit bulls in one spot.

Since Guinness doesn’t do breed-specific records—who knew?—there is no actual record to either set or break.

But not even halfway through the day, 9-year-old Eviaiha Smith registered her tiny, mewling pit bull puppies—Danger, Fat Lady and Big Man—at numbers 190, 191 and 192. And she didn’t need Guinness or anyone else giving her a reason to be there. She was bursting with pride in her family’s ten pit bulls—only three of whom joined them on Sunday.

“They’re just so fun," she said, stroking Danger’s gray fur.

Ever since the Centers for Disease Control released a study in 2000 suggesting that pit bulls were more dangerous than other breeds (a study that the CDC itself has since debunked, and admitted was flawed, for a dozen reasons) the American Pit Bull Terrier and, perhaps more tellingly, dogs that simply look like them, have been persecuted in a manner that recalls villagers, torches and Frankenstein.

“I didn’t notice anything different about her until people started looking at her weird,” said 35-year-old Brigid Creger of her first pit bull, Abby.

A blond, well-coiffed mom, wife and supply chain analyst in Cedar Park, Creger hardly looks like the stereotypical thuggish pit bull owner. She’s a well-spoken, mainstream suburbanite and looks, well, like most of the people who were hanging out with their pit bulls on Sunday.

At Mud Puppies doggie day care and grooming in Austin, owner Edward Flores says his shop has never had to turn away a pit bull for behavioral problems. One of their clients is a wonderful, well-behaved 95-pound pittie named Blue who had been turned away from every groomer and doggie day care in town, by owners who took one look at the massive broad chest and huge grinning maw and made a snap decision.

Blue, Flores said, is a joy to have in his facility and has never had any issues getting along with humans or dogs.

But that kind of info doesn’t stop people from condemning them as an entire breed—and using them to criticize and judge their owners.

Creger said she gets grief all the time from her neighbors, coworkers and others about owning two pit bulls in the same home as her 3-year-old daughter, Madelyn.

It seems to be the one way in which people in this mind-your-own-business society are still comfortable attacking someone’s parenting skills, in fact.

Several parents on Sunday said people seem to have no qualms at all—from close family friends to random strangers—in bringing up their objections to them owning a pit bull with a child in the house.

Michael and Whitney Cavazos said they were lectured by “everybody” when they chose to bring Tank, a powerful blue pit with a spiked collar, into their home with their infant, Dominik.

Is it understandable that someone would not want an animal around that’s capable of hurting their children—even on accident?

Sure. In that case, where are all the advocates for bans on horses, cats, and—in the case of one infant death reported by the Los Angeles Times some years ago—Pomeranians?

People describe them as “scum” on websites, and they divorce Facebook friends who try to defend them. Lawyers publish web pages touting their perceived dangers and inviting people to file money-grubbing class-action lawsuits against pit owners. Cities like Miami and Denver pass pit bull bans only to see their dog-attack statistics unchanged from the likes of cities such as New York and Chicago, which don’t have bans and have seen up to 90 percent decreases in dog bites in the last 30 years.

Their critics trot out myths to back their vastly unresearched opinions, the most popular of which is the completely false one about pit bulls’ jaws locking on its targets and that unproven theory that pit bulls are ticking time bombs.

These people vigorously defend a mysterious willingness to decide that one highly publicized pit bull attack means all pit bulls are alike, much like the indefensible position that one undocumented immigrant from Mexico means that all Latinos swam the river to get here.

Among the most embarrassing and irresponsible factors in all this is the treatment of pit bulls by the news media.

We in the media like stories about bad guys, and we like stories that draw high ratings/hits/circulation numbers. Pit bull stories, unfortunately, make it easy to do both because they let us play on fear and ignorance while skimping on time and facts and increasing our audience.

But some stories simply don't have two sides.

In covering Sunday's festival, I’m not going to drag out the cursory anti-pittie quote from a victim because, frankly, while the experience was horrific, being bitten by a dog does not make them experts on an entire breed.

I’m not going to talk to your typical man-on-the-street because, frankly, while they may have consumed lots of stories about dog bites, simply watching TV does not make them experts, either.

And as a member of the media, I'm not going to be dragged into a CYA-inspired back-and-forth that gives ink to unsubstantiated rumors simply for the sake of appearing to be fair. This is a common trick of the media that occasionally fools even the most discerning viewer/reader/listener into thinking we're actually being balanced.

(Allowing someone to parrot untruths unchecked is, actually, unfair and intellectually dishonest, and it's time the media quit doing it. But that's a WHOLE 'nother essay...)

On Sunday, the story simply was that hundreds of beloved pit bulls and their proud owners turned out to show society that these dogs, like Justice, can be pure bundles of joy. And, with or without the audience, to just celebrate their dogs in a nonjudgmental environment.

To own a pittie, Creger said, is to “take on the role of educator and advocate.”

And it’s a role she’s taken on enthusiastically and, thankfully, with some success.

“I’ve changed a lot of minds,” she said.

Article by Karen Brooks
Photos by Charlie L Harper III